When the neighbouring country Colombia becomes more saturated with Venezuelan immigrants and earning enough money to scrape by has become more difficult for them, a large portion of Venezuelans decided to travel further south to Peru, Chile, and even Argentina to make a living. Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru all belong to the Union of South-American Nations (UNASUR). Before June of 2019, the citizens of the UNASUR were exempted from requiring visas for travel within the union.
On June 15th of 2019, however, Peru Authority amended the immigration policy for Venezuelans, by requiring them to obtain a humanitarian visa before they are allowed to enter Peru. On August 25th, Ecuador followed Peru’s example and restricted Venezuelans from entering the country without a visa.
When Venezuelan immigrants arrived at Tumbes, the Peruvian town located at the border between Ecuador and Peru, many were informed for the first time of the policy change regarding visa. Now a Venezuelan needs to hold a valid Peruvian visa to travel further south. In order to apply for a Peruvian visa, one had to travel back to the closest Ecuadorian city Loja, where the Peruvian consulate is established; and yet, to re-enter Ecuador, one is required to hold a valid Ecuadorian visa. This paradoxical situation left thousands of immigrants stuck at the border between Peru and Ecuador.
Location: Tumbes, Peru
Date: 08/22 - 09/03.2019
Venezuela, once the richest country in Latin America, partly for being home to the biggest oil reserves in the world, is currently in a severe economic crisis. It has the biggest migration movement on the continent, with over five million people leaving for other countries on the continent. When the international media casts its eye on the situation, its focus is on the huge number of people emigrating from Venezuela, its devastated economy, and the suffering of its citizens.
Reporting on the economic crisis and the dire conditions experienced by migrants is absolutely necessary and of utmost importance. But focusing purely on the suffering and pain of the migrants could keep or delay Venezuelans from ever rejoining the relative normalcy of global society. Lopsided representation of only' factual' conditions of the immigrants could influence how we collectively frame modern history, how we view Venezuelans, and what exactly it means to be an 'immigrant'.
This is a cognitive process, one that can prevent audiences from taking a genuine interest in relating to, empathizing with, and reflecting on the occurrence of such tragedy.
Neglecting the idea of a traditional documentary photographic approach, I decided to capture a tiny section of the wall in the Peruvian immigration office complex, where immigrants are forced to pause their journey in pursuit of a better life. Instead of categorically seeking drastic visual stimulation, I waited and photographed the people that sheltered in front of the wall as they waited for permission to enter Peruvian land.
I continuously photographed this wall and the influx of immigrants that settled or rested or waited in front of it, over the course of 15 days. These photos were captured in their “found situation", where protagonists and their material belongings are not staged but already situated in their real-life settings. Interviews getting at migrants' personal details, and of seeking the right to portray them, were conducted and obtained after the photos were taken.
I applied this approach in the hope that I could explore the boundary between documentary photography and conceptual photography. I thus created a sequence of documentary photographs at the same venue, where a lapse of time was delineated by the migrants and their stories.
These photos intend to not only document the challenges and hardships encountered by immigrants; but to also portray the migrants' personal fortitude, family ties, and other humane qualities the rest of us ought to find familiar.